The WORST Holiday You Could Possibly Take

Cruises. Massive floating cities with thousands of passengers that spend short amounts of time in multiple destinations. So what’s so wrong with that? Lots of people love cruising but not so many cruisers know what kind of impact the cruise is having on them, where they visit or how badly it can end up. Here are just a few reasons why taking a cruise is the worst way to travel:

  1. Cruises are bad for your health

Sunbathing on the deck downwind of the funnels can be really bad for your health. Cruise ships create awful air pollution from the cheaper dirty heavy fuel oil that they burn when in unrestricted waters. This results in nasty ultrafine particulates on the deck being at the same levels as really polluted cities such as Shanghai or Delhi. The amount of sulphur dioxide they emit is 3,500 times more than land-based vehicles, which can aggravate cardiovascular and lung problems. Basically, you are paying to breathe in exhaust fumes, what a delightful luxury.

Pollution from cruise ship chimney

2. Cruises are bad for the environment

By burning heavy fuels, cruising also contributes to climate change. You may think air travel is the worst form of travel for the environment, but sailing round instead can be just as bad. Some cruise companies are switching their liners to more environmentally friendly fuel sources but that is only one element of the problem. Cruise ships can legally dump treated sewage anywhere; untreated sewage must be released over twelve miles from shore. In some cases, that is raw sewage from over 9,000 crew and passengers. Then there is the garbage, laundry detergents, pool chemicals, shower and bath waters…. Some companies have been caught and fined for dumping garbage at sea.

In order to find out how poorly some cruise liners rate on their environmental performance, check out the Friends of the Earth report. You might then want to ask the company to provide more details of where the waste goes, they don’t show you the grey water processing or recycling section in the brochures now do they?

3. The locals do not like you

Large cruise ships have been banned from entering Venice after protests by disgruntled residents. Similarly, other towns that end up being swamped by as many as 40,000 tourists per day have had enough. The unrelenting mass influx of tourists has resulted in many Venetians leaving their city and residents of Dubrovnik, Capri and Santorini are also voicing their dislike of cruise based travellers. They are considered ‘lower class’ tourists as they don’t spend as much money locally, as their food, accommodation, and entertainment is all paid for on board.

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Giant cruise ship

4) You could end up a victim of crime

Theft, assaults and other crimes happen everywhere, including when at sea. Yes, there have been murders, rapes and violent brawls on board cruises all over the world. With that many people on a vessel with unlimited alcohol, fists are likely to fly and expensive personal belongings disappear.

You might want to note the rule of law on the ship you are taking in case you become a victim of crime, which depends on where you are at the time of the incident. If you are in port or territorial waters then local authorities have powers but if you are out at sea you may be surprised that the police investigating the issue are from the ship’s flag state – which could be anywhere from Malta to Panama. There is usually a team of security and a secure area where passengers who break the law can be held until the next port of call, where they are dumped and forced to make their own way home.

Equally, crime happens onshore too, as naive cruise tourists being shuttled about are handily rounded up sitting ducks for criminals. Tales of robbery by machete or gunpoint are not uncommon. Travellers should be aware, comply with the offenders, take out adequate insurance and leave valuables behind.

Here’s a guide on how to stay safe when travelling by reducing your risks.

5) You could end up seriously out of pocket

Even cruises that are described as ‘all inclusive’ you could still find that you are shelling out more than you expected. Tours of the places you visit, tips, alcohol, internet, spa services, laundry, fitness classes, speciality restaurants, snacks…even water! Oh and stay away from the casino… What you may have budgeted for can easily get out of control, and you have no options if you want an alternative service provider.

It’s also not uncommon for locals to hike up prices to unsuspecting day cruisers who have no idea their coffee is four times the cost of the same cup for a local. 

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

crowds of people at the port

6) You might not like being trapped with thousands of other people

If you are a light sleeper, do not like noise or are not a fan of children then this is not the ideal scenario for you. Be prepared for sleeping underneath a walking route, close to a communal area or next door to a record-breaking snorer.

You may find you are in constant competition with other customers and have to book in advance for restaurant reservations, to see the complementary shows or to get poolside seating. You also cannot easily avoid that nightmare couple or escape from the odd guy you met at dinner, they most likely are with you for the entirety of your holiday. Luckily, there are websites dedicated to advising you how to beat the crowds on board and to find a quieter cabin, plus other ways to stay sane.

Don’t forget that when the ship docks, thousands of cruisers will all be heading to the same destinations as you are, which can make it seem like a plague of locusts has descended.

7) You might end up seriously ill

Cruise ships are notorious for being breeding centres for infectious diseases. For example, there have been multiple cases of the mass vomiting and diarrhoea bug norovirus plaguing cruise ship passengers and outbreaks of Legionnaires disease, measles, chickenpox, influenza.

Passengers also get sick when they fail to consider the health risks at the places they visit; preventing contracting malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and zika virus is seemingly forgotten about. There is a failure by many cruisers to get vaccinated or adequately insured and as a consequence face the experience of the exorbitant cost of medical bills on board and ‘lost’ days feeling ill.

medical paraphenalia

8) It could all go horribly wrong

Violent weather, fire, running aground, these are all elements that can ruin your ‘dream’ trip. And it is surprisingly common. One infamous cruise had an engine fire which left the ship without air conditioning or working toilets. For days. The smell…

Itineraries can be altered whilst at sea, for example, if a port of call becomes unsafe, has a disease outbreak or a change in the political climate. There’s nothing you can do about it, the decision is not yours to be made and the trip is altered without your consultation.

9) You could get left behind

You have a very short amount of time onshore, which can mean you barely see any of the places you dock at. The ship is not going to wait for you if you are late getting back to port and will set sail without you. But that’s probably the best thing that can happen, considering how awful a holiday cruising can be.

Be aware of the extra costs of missing the boat, however, a few days away from the maddening crowds, choosing where you would like to eat, sipping on cheap cocktails, immersing in the local culture, accessing the internet at reasonable rates and not breathing in toxic fumes might just be the best option.

a jetty without any people or boats

Don’t you want to choose a more ethical and environmentally friendly holiday?

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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18 thoughts on “The WORST Holiday You Could Possibly Take

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  1. Wow! You really don’t like cruising! While I wouldn’t want to do one, I know a lot of people love them and they could be good for people who are less mobile but still want to see the world.

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    1. Sure – however until the environmental impact is reduced and the sheer number of people overwhelming sites is managed properly I simply cannot advocate cruises. Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

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  2. Interesting read and I do agree with some points! however I did have a lovely cheap cruise in the Med a few years back and it was very enjoyable and welcoming from the locals, since it boosted their tourism too. As for pollution.. unfortunately that isn’t going to change very soon 😦

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    1. Yeah I can see how if the smaller cruises are managed properly they can help some parts of the economy – the larger ships however are destroying some towns – and the locals hate this. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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  3. I’m so pleased to see this post! I’ve never supported cruises on those monumental cruise ships as they are so unsustainable and so damaging to the environment, cruise passengers spend very little on shore excursions and have a tendency to take over destinations like Venice and Kotor. Yet it’s so rare that writers/bloggers will write about these things as they want the free cruises. So refreshing to see this!

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    1. Crikey – I’d never compromise my thoughts and feelings about the environment for a free trip. Soon more places will ban the cruises and it will have to change – until then everyone has to suffer, including the sea life, local poeple and ancient monuments. Thanks for your comment!

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  4. I have never been interested in going on a cruise but now I am even less interested. Some of these points I knew but never really put a lot of thought to and I can completely understand why locals hate seeing them coming. I feel like you never really get to know a place by taking a cruise it’s so impersonal and there is never enough time on shore to really appreciate a place. I honestly don’t even think I would go on a cruise if someone offered it to me for free.

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    1. Yeah – I can just imagine the looks I would get stepping off….plus the whole point of going somewhere is to experience the place, not just click, post and tick another one off. So rude to the destination! Thanks for your thoughts Nicole!

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  5. Interesting post! I never been on a cruise and it’s definitely not my kind of holiday. And I totally agree that it’s very bad for the environment.

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    1. Thanks Maike! Yep, if everyone a) knew this and b) started making some noise about it then hopefully the dirty fuel, dumping waste and mass tourism impacts would be reduced. Until then…

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  6. I liked reading your post because it provides a completely different perspective on cruising. We have done a few cruises throughout the years, but we both go into it knowing that it is completely different that a “traditional” vacation. I do worry about the environmental aspect… going to go check out that report now. Thanks for the info.

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  7. Very interesting post. I definitely agree about the environmental impact, but at the same time I think there are some ways to cruise more responsibly. You can research your own shore excursions, and try to shop in more “out of the way” local areas. I feel like I’ve heard that several cruise lines have been trying to promote “voluntourism.” And I remember reading how several cruise liners last year helped people in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico flee from the hurricanes. I think it’s always about trying to find the balance that works well for you and your family.

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    1. I agree – however 99% of cruise passengers will not do this and its a huge problem. Oh no… voluntourism from a cruise line? UGH! That’s even worse (I have extensive experience and knowledge about how VT can be very corrupt, supports illegal practices and terrible for the local economy). Is this now day-tripping the orphanages? Thanks for letting me know.

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  8. I am not a fan of cruises and prefer to travel in another way. Having said that, I only see the cruise industry growing (even if we do not like that fact). I attended a travel show recently and there were tons of cruise companies announcing their huge, upcoming ships. I noticed an increase in river cruises and barges too. I think a very nice trip can be planned (independently) with the money that would be spent on a cruise.

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    1. Yes – its not surprising how many people like this style of travel – because its made so easy. But its really the fast food of the travel industry, dirty and bad for you. It will start to have a backlash – anything this bad usually does!

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